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Music review: Musicians From Marlboro at the Broad Stage

April 5, 2011 |  1:30 pm

Marlboro At musical levels that count most -– real-time sonic surfaces and fundamental musicality -- the Musicians From Marlboro amply showed their worth Monday when a touring arm of Vermont's famed music program took Santa Monica’s Broad Stage. In a program of Janácek, Mozart and Mendelssohn, in an expanding stage population of quartet, quintet and octet, eight fine young musicians delivered the goods with clarity and power.

Beneath the actual music-making, though, are relevant back story, behind-the-scenes virtues. There is, for one, the impact of the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival summer program, founded 60 years ago, which brought these young professionals together and, secondly, the fact that these disparate, casually connected musicians could produce such a deep, integrated sound.

In the mobile Marlboro ranks were violinists Jessica Lee, Miho Saegusa and Yonah Zur; violists Mark Holloway, Maiya Papach and Scott St. John; and cellists Susan Babini and Na-Young Baek. On Janácek’s Quartet No. 1 (“Kreutzer Sonata”), the Czech’s emotive muscularity came boldly to life. The score’s 1923 vintage is most strongly stated in the third movement, as a rueful pleading melody is interrupted by scratchy-toned outbursts, an effective modernist curveball.

As for the Broad Stage, a housekeeping malfunction with season program information left out movement information and identified Mozart’s String Quintet in E-flat, K. 614, as a quartet, causing confusion when five musicians filed onstage. That glitch was corrected from the stage, after the fact.

Mozart’s Quintet sounded at once buoyant and forceful, to suit, and the ensemble gathered for Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat, Opus 20, came through with due vigor and nuance, especially in the carefully muted intensity of the sprightly third movement. In the presto, a hale, brisk race to the finish left a lingering impression of crisp brio.

In all, the Marlboro message came through loud and clear, and maturely.

-- Josef Woodard

Photo: The "Musicians at Play" sign welcomes visitors to the Marlboro campus. Credit: Pete Checchia